RIO DE JANEIRO – Italy delivered a classy performance to beat Mexico behind goals from Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli in its Confederations Cup debut on Sunday.
But manager Cesare Prandelli has no plans to bask in the victory at the Maracana, with a tricky proposition in Japan waiting on Wednesday.
“Absolutely,” Prandelli said following the 2-1 win when asked if Japan’s Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni would pose problems for the Azzurri.
“Alberto knows us very well, he knows how we work. I expect him to prepare a trap for us. From tonight, we will begin planning for the Japan game.
“I trust that Alberto will come up with an interesting strategy against us. Japan will have the slight edge, I think, because they have an extra day of rest.”
Pirlo was named man of the match after marking his 100th international appearance with a free kick that opened the scoring midway through the first half.
Balotelli was fouled 25 meters out in the 27th minute, and Pirlo made the most of the opportunity by curling into the back of the net to push Italy in front.
“It’s rewarding to win 100 caps for my country,” the Juventus midfielder said. “I’ve been fortunate to get this far and win a World Cup with Italy.
“But I’m still here and I still have goals for myself, including winning this Confederations Cup. It doesn’t get any better than to score and play your 100th game in a mythical stadium like the Maracana.”
Said Prandelli of Pirlo, “He defines football for us. He doesn’t stand out in terms of personality, but he has always been a fantastic player on the pitch.”
Mexico, which went close in the 11th minute when Andres Guardado hit the bar, restored parity after 34 minutes as Giovani dos Santos robbed Andrea Barzagli before he was brought down in the box by the Juventus defender.
Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez stepped up to convert, wrong-footing Gianluigi Buffon to make it 1-1 before the two teams headed into the tunnel.
Italy, though, had the last laugh 12 minutes to time as Balotelli kept off defender Carlos Salcido to poke in the winner from the heart of the area.
“We played better and we deserved the result,” Pirlo said. “I think (playing Balotelli as a single striker) was effective. We created numerous chances and we could have scored more goals.”
Spain downs Uruguay
Spain dominated its Confederations Cup opener against Uruguay on Sunday, winning 2-1 on first-half goals by Pedro and Roberto Soldado.
Spain had a little luck with the first goal, which may have been heading wide when it took a huge deflection off Uruguay defender Diego Lugano to beat goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. The second was perfect finishing by Soldado after a cute reverse pass from Cesc Fabregas.
Luis Suarez scored a consolation goal with a delicately curling free kick for Uruguay in the 88th.